Five ideas: What are your thoughts on these issues in the news this week?

Saturday, November 24, 2007 | 12:00 p.m. CST; updated 11:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Executive privilege at UM

On Monday, the UM Presidential Search Advisory Committee that’s been seeking a new leader for the four-campus system met with one candidate. The next president will replace Elson Floyd, who became Washington State University’s president in April. Jay Dade, a member of the committee and a Springfield attorney, said the candidate interviewed has a “high level” of interest in the position.

Even though the candidate’s name is being kept confidential, an inside source said that Gary Forsee, the ousted former chief executive officer of Sprint Nextel Corp., could be the lead candidate and that the UM Board of Curators, which ultimately will decide who becomes the president, recently met with him. Curators hope to choose a new president by January. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Forsee met with Gov. Matt Blunt on Tuesday.

Curators in June offered the position to Terry Sutter, a former New Jersey executive with Tyco Plastics and Adhesives, but he turned down the offer to become chief operating office of a Florida steel manufacturer. The curators’ apparent interest in corporate executives has sparked public debate over whether they should seek someone with a more academic background.

Is a former chief executive officer fit to be president of the UM System? Why or why not?

Affirmative action for women

Last year, the National Science Foundation gave MU researchers $499,000 to study how to bring more women into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM fields. This three-year grant aims to create STEM programs that will interest women and make these fields less “male-dominated.” Some of the programs include Mizzou ADVANCE and STRIDE, which are focused on research, mentoring, interactive climate theater presentations and educational programs.

Jackie Litt, chairwoman of the MU Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, said the lack of female role models is one reason more women do not enter these fields. Last month, several higher education leaders addressed this issue in Congress, proposing a NCAA-style organization that would monitor academic departments’ compliance with anti-gender discrimination laws.

One of the goals of Mizzou ADVANCE is to get more female faculty into STEM fields. Studies show that men are typically hired more often for these positions than women, even though about 50 percent of the people who pursue doctoral degrees in these fields are woman.

What do you think MU should do to attract more female students and faculty to these fields?

The Big Not So Muddy

The Missouri River is becoming less muddy, carrying only a fifth of the sediment it once did. The results include a 10 percent reduction in the riverbed level in Kansas City; the weakening and disappearance of wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico; and debate over whether earth removed as part of a $2.3 million habitat restoration project at Jameson Island near Arrow Rock should be dumped into the river. Beginning in February, The National Academy of Sciences will spend two years examining sediment levels in the river.

The sediment problem is one of many along the Missouri River that are the result of channelization that began in the 19th century in an effort to make the river more navigable for barges and less intrusive for farming. Other challenges along the river include diminishing numbers of pallid sturgeon and other species and the expense of maintaining levees that are often breached by the floods they’re intended to contain. Different groups attempting to address those problems include federal and state governments, American Indian tribes, and agricultural and recreational interests.

How do you think problems created over the last century along the Missouri River should be addressed?

Driving us mad

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, the stress of navigating Columbia’s streets is sure to heighten, particularly in dense retail areas. That’s why Columbia police are promising to scrutinize scurrying shoppers who eschew normal traffic etiquette and rush through, or clog up, major intersections.

Police will focus on the Stadium Boulevard corridor in and around Columbia Mall, Crossroads Shopping Center and the Shoppes at Stadium, where traffic frustration and accidents peak this time of year. But even a successful crackdown won’t eliminate inevitable congestion, a symptom of a street system unready for the traffic we dump on it.

That’s why shoppers in the Stadium corridor are now paying an extra half-cent sales tax on the merchandise they buy. Proceeds will pay for projects intended to ease congestion and accommodate anticipated increases in traffic. The tax is charged by transportation development districts, coalitions of property owners who create political subdivisions to charge us for roadwork that funnels people to their commercial enterprises.

You have to pay the extra sales tax, so what sorts of street projects do you want it to pay for in the Stadium corridor?

The verdict on judges

Opponents of Missouri’s system for selecting appellate and Supreme Court judges, as well as circuit judges in major metropolitan areas, are angling for changes. They argue the existing system, though widely used in other states, shuts out the public and gives lawyers too much power.

The Federalist Society is working simultaneously to submit an initiative petition and to lobby the legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2008 ballot. It would change the system in which a selection commission submits three nominees to the governor and lets the chief executive pick, instead allowing the governor to pick from a larger field offered by a larger commission and making that selection subject to Senate confirmation. Two lawmakers also plan to offer significant changes. All argue their methods would give the public more voice and lend more balance to the process.

A group of former Supreme Court justices, meanwhile, is lobbying to keep the existing system, saying a closed process is necessary to ensure bench appointments don’t become political prizes.

Would you change the existing system for selecting judges? Why or why not?

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